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Long story short, I made a retro Pong clone and submitted it to the App Store as my first app. It survived for a bit, but I eventually received a message from Atari tell me to remove it. There was nothing more than that, I just took it down, and they made no other demands. Since then, it has remained removed.

I have become a much better programmer now and would now like to re-create my original app and upload it again. However, I'm afraid that something of the sort would happen again. Is remaking the game itself against any laws? If not, would using the name "Super Ping" instead of "Super Pong" be legal?

I'm not entirely sure that anyone except Atari could answer that one decisively unless you ready to take them to court :) –  annonymously Dec 16 '11 at 2:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Pong is a registered trademark of Atari Interactive Inc.

From wikipedia:

A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark[1] is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities.

As RogueThinking said, probably what instigated the take-down was your naming the product in such a way that Atari can argue it's conceivable someone will mistake it for a product Atari made. It seems like you're trying to piggyback off the Pong brand name. Which you cannot do.

But if you make a game with paddles and balls and name it something totally different, like


then Atari probably shouldn't have a problem with that.

Note a similar game existed in 2007 and was taken down by Atari, called Plasma Pong. Again he's repeating the same mistake - there's trademark infringement right in the name.

Not to mention Apple will likely not accept a game that clearly clones a game's concept and piggybacks off it's name. To continue of what bobo said, trademark infringement isn't about writing out "Pong", it's about causing confusion to ties to the original game. If it's conceivable to think that someone will think "Ping" is an official remake of "Pong", you are in violation and would probably lose in court. You wouldn't make it to court though, your app would just be pulled from the app store. –  brandon Dec 16 '11 at 20:01
Angry Chickens? –  Joey Green Dec 16 '11 at 21:29
So old post, but here's what US law has to say about (c) when it comes to games: copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html. TL;DR; You can't copyright idea, it's perfectly legal to create clone. Just don't use artistic materials from original game, nor should you copy characters and story line as is, to your game. ( I thought this would be good addition to answer ) –  Katu Mar 24 at 13:10

TLDR: depends where you live. Be more creative.

Instead of worrying about if it's legal or not, why don't you just come up with something more creative?

Pong is boring. Pong clones are boring too. I'm sure you can come up with a unique, interesting twist on it that will take it to the next level.

Heck, I need to do this too, since I'm working on a game with "pong" in the name :)

Okay, I admit, you have a very good point. However, there are two things that I feel the need to point out: (1) there are no good pong clones on the app store (at least no free ones), and (2) the original app I made was not a straight pong clone. I had another mode that involved a sort of rally system to allow the use of special moves, etc. It wasn't exactly vanilla Pong. –  Alexis King Dec 16 '11 at 2:48
@JakeKing that's what I had assumed as well, nobody makes vanilla pong anymore :) just change the name, that's likely the issue Atari has (gameplay and ideas cannot really be copyrighted, but names can). –  ashes999 Dec 16 '11 at 12:03
I misread "pang" instead of "pong" and wondered how on Earth could anybody find Pang boring... –  Lohoris Dec 16 '11 at 15:05
-1: This answer kind of dodges the question. –  bobobobo Dec 16 '11 at 19:48
@bobobobo sometimes the best solution is to dodge the question/issue entirely. What good is there in another "-1, it depends where you live" answer? No thanks. –  ashes999 Dec 16 '11 at 21:46

The issue is about "Brand". Atari has created a brand around 'Pong' and invested in the brand. If you are creating a game that wants to leverage that brand so that others will be interested in playing it, for example using 'Pong' in the name then you will likely draw the attention of the brand owner - in this case Atari. If the game is pong like but has different attributes I suggest naming it something that highlights those attributes. Keep in mind the more your game looks like - identical graphics - name - the more likely you are going to infringe on their 'brand'.

Yes. This is what copyright is all about. It's that he wast trying to "piggyback" off the Pong name, which Atari requires licensing for. –  bobobobo Dec 16 '11 at 19:33
Sorry, I should have said "trademarking". This is what "trademarking" is all about. –  bobobobo Dec 16 '11 at 19:44

Only a lawyer would be able to definitively answer this for you based on your specific project and its needs. You should ask a lawyer, especially since you've already had prior legal contact with Atari concerning this project.

Wrong, only a courtroom would be able to definitively answer this, and that's exactly what he doesn't want. –  stephelton Dec 16 '11 at 5:31
Wrong again. There's being smart about choosing how you name and market your product, and whether you give your opponent an easy way to claim infringement. Putting "Pong" in the name is basically equivalent to bending over. –  bobobobo Dec 16 '11 at 19:45

I guess it depends on what Atari put under copyright.. For example Tetris is not only copyrighted by the name, the shape of the blocks is copyrighted aswell as the size of the area where the blocks go. That means that if you do a Tetris clone you could call it any way you like, but if it uses the same shapes and the "wall area" has the same width and height, you are up for a copyright infringement

I wonder if there's some place where you could check if anything is copyrighted, like names for starters

Copyright != Patent != Trademark –  bcrist Mar 25 at 3:50

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